WORST FLU SEASON IN 10 YEARS
NEW YORK (AP) — The flu has further tightened its grip on Connecticut this season with the state Dept of Public Health reporting 63 deaths so far this season with several more weeks to go. This season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago. A government report out Friday shows 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009. And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu. The season has been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and causes more deaths than other more common flu bugs. Still, its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it’s been so bad. They say one possibility is that the vaccine is doing an unusually poor job; U.S. data on effectiveness is expected next week.
FORMER STATE REP. JOHN SCOTT ANNOUNCES RUN FOR 40TH DISTRICT SEAT
Former state Rep. John Scott of Mystic is going after a seat in the 40th General Assembly District. Scott, the president of Bailey Agencies Insurance in Groton, served as state representative in the 40th District from 2014 to 2016. He says he was the first openly gay Republican to serve in the General Assembly. Scott was defeated by Democratic challenger Christine Conley in 2016.
SIMMONS SAYS STATE PENALIZES STONINGTON FOR RESPONSIBLE SPENDING
Gov. Malloy’s proposed state budget will cut almost $1.4 million in education aid from the town of Stonington something town officials have expected would someday happen as the state’s fiscal problems worsen. First Selectman Rob Simmons and town officials have kept tax rates low, improved operations to save money and amassed an undesignated fund surplus of more than $11 million for emergencies. And for years, the finance board has put aside portions of the money needed for projects such as the replacement of the police radio system. Rob Simmons says the towns that have done everything right are getting the shaft. and the towns and cities that have done everything wrong are getting the benefits adding that multiple Stonington administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have been responsible with spending. Superintendent of Schools Van Riley declined to comment this week on the impact of the education cut, saying school officials have not yet had time to analyze it. He also pointed out the budget is not finalized and could be changed by the legislature.
“COACHES” HELP SUBSTANCE ABUSE PATIENTS INTO TREATMENT
People who are called “Coaches” with the ‘Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery’ have helped about 700 people with addiction in eight emergency departments across the state. They help those addicted by telling them about local treatment programs, connecting them to the recovery communities near them and advising them about their medical options for treating addiction. The recovery coach program opened in four hospitals last year: including Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and The William Backus Hospital. Since then, the program has expanded into four more Connecticut hospitals.
WIFE OF CONNECTICUT DOCTOR CHARGED WITH HIS MURDER
BURLINGTON, Conn. (AP) – State Police have charged a Connecticut woman with the murder of her 84-year-old husband, a UConn Health doctor and professor Police arrested 70-year-old Linda L. Kosuda-Bigazzi of Burlington on Friday, charging her with murder and tampering with physical evidence. She’s being held on a $1.5 million bond and is scheduled to appear in Bristol Superior Court on Tuesday. Police say Kosuda-Bigazzi’s arrest warrant has been sealed. Burlington and state police were called Monday to a Burlington home to check on the wellbeing of Dr. Pierluigi Bigazzi. They found a deceased man inside. He was later identified as Bigazzi. State police hope to speak with anyone who had direct contact with the doctor between July 2017 and February 2018, including contractors who performed work at the home.
RUSSIAN WOMAN IDENTIFIED AS VICTIM OF GARBAGE TRUCK CRASH
WINDSOR, Conn. (AP) – Police in Connecticut have identified a woman visiting the U.S. from Russia as the victim of a fatal crash involving a garbage truck. Windsor police confirmed Friday that 41-year-old Tatiana Vedentsova, of Moscow, was a passenger in a car driven by 33-year-old Pavel Kovalchuk, also of Moscow, that collided head-on Wednesday with the trash truck. The crash occurred about 1:25 p.m. during a winter storm. Vedentsova suffered serious injuries and was taken to Hartford Hospital, where she later died. Kovalchuk also had serious injuries and was hospitalized. Police say the pair was visiting the U.S. on business. The driver of the Windsor Sanitation garbage truck suffered a minor injury and was taken to St. Francis Hospital for treatment. The crash remains under investigation.
WESTPORT MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN SEX-RING RELATED CASE
(Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com)
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) – A Westport man has pleaded guilty to patronizing a trafficked person and agreed to cooperate with Connecticut investigators against others involved in an alleged Danbury-based sex ring involving troubled young men. The Hartford Courant reports that Danbury Superior Court Judge Susan Reynolds on Friday handed 72-year-old William Trefzger a 10-year sentence, suspended after one year. Trefzger has a prior sex assault conviction and has been held on a $250,000 cash bond since his arrest last spring. Trefzger and Bruce Bemer of Glastonbury were arrested in connection with the ring, which authorities believe may have been operating for decades. Bemer owns the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and Bemer Petroleum Corporation in Glastonbury.
Bemer has opted for a jury trial. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
PROSECUTOR SAYS COP JUSTIFIED IN SHOOTING CASINO GARAGE JUMPER
NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) – A prosecutor in Connecticut says a police officer was justified in firing shots at a 23-year-old man who then jumped to his death from the fourth floor of a parking garage at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in September of 2016. New London State’s Attorney Michael Regan released a report Friday that notes Michael Goodale had pointed a gun at police Sergeant Kevin Leach, who was trying to make an arrest for an outstanding probation violation. Regan’s report says Leach fired two shots at Goodale, hitting the suspect in the foot. Witnesses told police that Goodale then leaped from the garage. An autopsy showed he died from blunt force injuries. Regan says Leach would have been justified in using deadly force, but noted the death resulted instead from the 81-foot (24.6 meter) fall.
FORMER DISPATCHER ACCUSED OF INTERFERENCE DENIED PROGRAM
DANIELSON, Conn. (AP) – A Connecticut judge has rejected a request for a special diversionary program for a former police dispatcher accused of interfering with an emergency call involving her son. The Norwich Bulletin reports Judge John Newson declined Ruth Bragg’s application Thursday for the pre-trial program, known as accelerated rehabilitation. The 55-year-old former Putnam police dispatcher has pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with police and third-degree hindering prosecution. Police say Bragg failed to send officers when the friend of a woman with a restraining order against 22-year-old Timothy Bragg reported the younger Bragg was nearby. Bragg’s lawyer says his client was punished by losing her job. Newson says the allegations are too serious for the program and her actions could have led to “catastrophic” consequences. Bragg returns to court March 6.
CATHOLIC SCHOOL MAY BAR GIRL OVER PLANNED PARENTHOOD STICKER
GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) – The parents of a student at a Roman Catholic school in Connecticut say their daughter was told to remove a Planned Parenthood sticker from her laptop or she wouldn’t be allowed to re-enroll. The “I stand with Planned Parenthood” sticker is one of several on Sacred Heart Greenwich sophomore Kate Murray’s laptop. Brian and Tracy Murray tell the Greenwich Time their daughter removed the pro-abortion rights group’s sticker so she could attend class this week, but hasn’t decided if she’ll stay long term. The school’s head wouldn’t discuss the situation directly but wrote that the school discourages the display of anything “supporting or opposing political candidates, positions or organizations.” The all-girls school is not a diocesan school, but Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano says he backs the decision that affirms the church’s anti-abortion teachings.
RHODE ISLAND AWARDS $3.75 MILLION TO PROTECT GREEN SPACE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – More than $3.75 million is being awarded to help Rhode Island communities and local organizations protect green space throughout the state. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced Friday that 17 projects will receive matching grants to protect 889 acres of open space and farmland. The funding stems from the Green Economy Bond program, which was voters passed in 2016. The initiative aims to invest $35 million to preserve open space, improve recreational facilities and clean up land and waterways. The grants include $151,500 to acquire 15.6 acres at the headwaters of Little Creek in Portsmouth; $150,000 to acquire 75 acres on Saugatucket Road in South Kingston to help create a 120-acre stretch of protected land; and $400,000 to acquire 211.5 acres abutting Water Supply Board land in Cumberland.
RHODE ISLAND LAWMAKER PUSHES TO EXPAND OVERDOSE IMMUNITY LAW
(Information from: WPRI-TV, http://www.wpri.com)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A state legislator is pushing to expand Rhode Island’s overdose immunity law to cover teens reporting alcohol-related emergencies. WPRI-TV reports Rep. Kenneth Marshall recently introduced a bill that would expand the Good Samaritan Overdose Protection Act. The current law only applies to drug-related overdoses. The Democrat says teenagers who witness an alcohol overdose shouldn’t fear legal consequences before calling 911. Marshall believes the bill can prevent deaths.
Marshall says the bill is in response to a Rhode Island teen who was one of 18 fraternity members charged in the hazing death of Pennsylvania State University student Timothy Piazza. Piazza fell down steps after an alcohol ritual. Marshall said Piazza didn’t have to die and other students “wouldn’t carry the burden they do if that situation went differently.”
MAN TO SERVE MINIMUM OF 23 YEARS FOR DEADLY STABBING
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A man who pleaded guilty to murder in a 2015 fatal stabbing in Providence has been sentenced to serve at least 23 years in prison. WPRI-TV reports that 54-year-old Araya Brinkley was sentenced Friday to 50 years, with 23 he must serve. He was accused of stabbing 41-year-old Troy Henderson 15 times outside a convenience store in May 2015. Police say the two had been arguing inside the store before the stabbing. Brinkley’s cousin tells WPRI-TV that he believes Brinkley was acting in self-defense when he killed Henderson. Brinkley’s attorney said at his client’s 2015 arraignment that Brinkley was honorably discharged from the Marines, worked as a full-time chef and had a 3-year-old son. Brinkley will receive credit for three years already served.
THOUSANDS WAITING FOR BENEFITS AS COMPUTER WOES CONTINUE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Rhode Island’s Health and Human Services secretary has told lawmakers that delays continue for thousands of applicants for state benefits because of problems with its computer system. Eric Beane told the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that around 4,000 applications remained backlogged at the end of January. The Providence Journal reports that around half of those are for long-term elder care. Beane says it could take months, perhaps past June , before the $491 million system stabilizes. The state rolled out the Unified Health Infrastructure Project, or UHIP, in 2016 despite warnings from the federal government that it wasn’t ready. It handles applications for food stamps, Medicaid and other benefits. A federal court last year appointed a special master to oversee the food stamps system because of delays in processing applications.
VINNY PAZ INSISTS HE’S THE VICTIM AFTER ASSAULT CHARGE
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – Ex-boxing champion Vinny Paz has posted a stream of messages on Twitter insisting he’s the victim of a man Paz is charged with assaulting. Paz was charged with felony assault against 34-year-old Nathanael Lavoie. He’s due back in court in April. Paz says Lavoie stole $16,000 from him. Lavoie told WJAR-TV on Thursday that he didn’t, and says Paz sucker punched him when he burst into his home Jan. 2. Paz responded on Twitter “The crime was committed against me so stop !!! ” and “He can deny all he wants the truth always comes out how about that .” The 55-year-old Paz is a five-time world champion who broke his neck in a car crash. His comeback story was dramatized in the 2016 film “Bleed for This,” starring Miles Teller.
DEMOCRATIC CHAIRMAN RESIGNS AFTER “CHILDISH”: FACEBOOK MEME
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – The chairman of the Providence Democratic City Committee has resigned after posting a meme on Facebook that some city leaders said was racist toward Italians. WPRI-TV reports that Patrick Ward said Friday he feels it’s best to step down amid the “distraction” caused by his December post. Ward posted an image from the movie “The Godfather” with the words “David” and “John” superimposed over the characters Michael and Fredo Corleone. The image was posted under a story about now-Council President David Salvatore and Majority Leader John Igliozzi taking leadership positions with the City Council. Ward’s wife, Councilwoman Sabina Matos, was acting president at the time. The first public criticism of Ward came this week, from Councilman Nicholas Narducci. Mayor Jorge Elorza and other prominent Democrats then called for his resignation.